Acting on unqualified designer protects NSW consumers

On 16 December 2015, Magistrate Geoffrey Bradd found building designer, Timothy Treleaven guilty of illegally representing himself as an architect.  He was convicted of breaching the Architects Act and was fined $3,500.  

He was prosecuted by the NSW Architects Registration Board which is responsible for protecting consumers of architectural services.  It also has the power to prosecute where unqualified designers claim to be architects.

The Board took action after being contacted by a number of Mr Treleaven’s clients, including the Davies family from Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

The Davies engaged Treleaven - trading as T2Architecture - in February, 2015 to prepare a Development Application for submission to Pittwater Council. His website claimed that T2Architecture was an east-Sydney based architecture firm. 

Treleaven required payment upfront of almost $4,000 prior to starting work, but after repeated delays in completing the work, ongoing concerns from Pittwater Council at the quality of the DA, and calls from consultants who failed to be paid by Treleaven, the Davies lost confidence in his services and took the decision to withdraw the DA.

The Davies emailed him to advise of their decision to withdraw the DA, terminate his services and request the balance of funds to be returned. In response, Treleaven demanded further payment.

“Although this process was protracted and stressful, I felt an obligation to stop this happening to other people. It is important to listen to your instincts and act on them if you feel something is not as it should be”, said Mrs Davies.  

Only skilled and experienced professionals who are registered with the NSW Architects Registration Board may use the title architect. The Architects Act prohibits the use of another title, name or description designed to infer that a person is an architect.  This means terms like ‘architectural designer’ and ‘architectural services’ must only be used by someone who is on the Register of Architects. This ensures the market is clearly informed as to who is and who is not an architect so that prospective clients can make an informed commercial judgement as to whose services to use.

“The purpose of the Architects Act is to protect consumers”, said Registrar Tim Horton. “It outlines the qualifications needed to use the title ‘architect’, and lays out the disciplinary procedures when consumers have a complaint about an architect’s conduct. But it also tasks the Board to take action when those without qualifications seek to pass themselves off as architects – especially when consumers lose out as a result.”

"Protecting a term or title is more common than you might think. There are laws about who can use terms like 'Police', 'Bank' or 'Trust'. There are even rules about using the name 'Don Bradman' and 'Mary Mackillop'. At the root of all these is the principle that consumers should be able to have faith in the quality and standard of what's being offered to them," explained Horton.

You can check the status of your architect, or a firm by logging searching the online Register at www.architects.nsw.gov.au. For more on who can use the title architect, read our INFORMATION SHEET - ILLEGAL USE OF THE TITLE ARCHITECT

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